The Obama administration said Monday that Israel and the Palestinians have agreed to indirect peace talks brokered by U.S. special Mideast envoy George Mitchell, AP reported.
In a statement released as Vice President Joe Biden is visiting Israel, Mitchell, who is also in the region, said he was pleased that the two sides had accepted the proposal for talks that will see him shuttle between Israel and the Palestinian territories over the next several weeks.
"We've begun to discuss the structure and scope of these talks and I will return to the region next week to continue our discussions," he said. "As we've said many times, we hope that these will lead to direct negotiations as soon as possible."
The announcement followed disclosure of Israel's authorization to construct 112 new apartments in the West Bank despite a pledge to slow down settlement building. That move enraged the Palestinians just a day after they said they would resume the peace talks.
Mitchell appealed to the two sides not to do anything that could jeopardize the talks.
"We also again encourage the parties, and all concerned, to refrain from any statements or actions which may inflame tensions or prejudice the outcome of these talks," he said.